Nine Amazing Southern California Animal Encounters in 2021

Mountain lions and bobcat kittens and bears, oh my. The past year included several see-it-to-believe-it animal encounters caught on camera in Southern California.

Southern California's natural beauty is one of the reasons people love to live here.

The proximity of homes to that wild landscape also brings humans and their cameras into close contact with a range of wild animals. Below, we've rounded up some of the most memorable and unusual animal encounters of 2021.

April 2021: 1,000 Birds Flock Together in Fireplace Chimney

Birds of a feather flock together, but a flock took things too far and ended up in need of help from Southern California firefighters and animal services. About 1,000 small birds flew into a chimney at a Montecito home and ended up trapped. When the birds didn't fly back out, firefighters and animals services designed an ingenious chute system that funneled the birds out of the fireplace and through the home’s back doors.

May 2021: Giant California Condors Are Rare, Except at This Woman's House

One of the strangest animal encounters of 2021 played out over the course of several days at a house in the Tehachapi Mountains about 100 miles north of Los Angeles. In an eerie sight resembling scenes from a Hitchcock classic, about 15 to 20 of the endangered birds showed up during the first weekend in May and made themselves at home. Seana Quintero, the homeowner’s daughter, chronicled the unruly visitors in a series of Twitter posts that showed why the birds likely won’t be invited back.

About 15 to 20 rare California condors have taken over a SoCal woman's home. Video broadcast on Today in LA on May 7, 2021.

May 2021: SoCal Beachgoer Encounters Bizarre Looking Fish

You don’t forget a face like this. A man came across the rare find, identified as a deep sea Pacific footballfish, during his morning walk at Newport Beach. The bizarre looking creature is a species of anglerfish that are more commonly found at sea depths of more than 3,000 feet below the surface.

A rarely seen fish washed ashore in Newport Beach. Video broadcast Monday May 10, 2021 on Today in LA.

May 2021: Three Bobcat Kittens Found Inside an Oak Tree

Alos a candidate for Cutest Animal Encounter of 2021, these tiny bobcat kittens were found in an unusual place. The three blue-eyed kittens were discovered in the cavity of a large oak tree in an area burned during the Woolsey Fire more than two years ago in Calabasas. It’s believe the bobcat used the tree as a den because the surrounding habitat was mostly destroyed by fire. 

National Park Service
Bobcat kittens were found in a oak tree trunk in an area burned by the Woolsey Fire in Calabasas.

June 2021: Dog Mom Pushes Mama Bear Off Backyard Wall

A backyard security camera captured an unforgettable jaw-dropping encounter between a bear family and a woman at a San Gabriel Valley. The stunning video shows the bear and two cubs walking on top of a block wall behind the house in Bradbury. The family’s four barking dogs soon charge the bears and chaos ensues.

“I was like, ‘Oh my god, there’s a bear and it is taking my dog. It is lifting it up off the ground,’” Hailey Morinico said. “In that split second, I decided to push the bear, like it was nothing, apparently." 

Surveillance video footage shows a teen in Southern California shoving a bear off a low wall behind her house to protect her four dogs over the Memorial Day weekend.

August 2021: Bear Wanders Into Porter Ranch Ralphs

Honey was likely on this bear’s shopping list when it casually wandered into a grocery store in Porter Ranch. The 125-pound bear eventually was eventually tranquilized and returned to the wild. 

Suzanne Jensen

October 2021: Chico the Chihuahua Survives a Daylight Coyote Attack

A hand-held air horn saved the day for a Chatsworth family when a coyote picked up their Chihuahua in its mouth and jumped a brick wall with its prey. Frightened by the sound, the coyote dropped Chico the Chihuahua and scampered off. 

Today, Chico, the chihuahua, is alive and well. And that's pretty remarkable, considering what happened to him. Gordon Tokumatsu reports for the NBC4 News on Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021.

July 2021: Adorable Bear Cub and Mom Splash Around in Backyard Pool

A backyard pool was the perfect place for a mama bear and her playful cub to find relief from the Southern California summer heat. In video of the bear family pool day, the cub dog-paddled around in the pool while mom seemed content to relax in the cool water at the home on the northern edge of Glendale.

A bear cub and mom splash around in a Glendale pool. Credit: Paul Hubler

November 2021: Mountain Lion Stares Down Hikers on Orange County Trail

This was one of the more intense animal encounters of 2021. A two-minute video shows what happened when two hikers came face-to-face with a fearsome looking mountain lion on an Orange County trail. 

Mark Girardeau told NBCLA he is frequently checking trail and wildlife cameras at several locations, but has only seen two mountain lions before -- both from a much greater distance. The close encounter was a first.

“This is the mountain lion’s home, we are simply visitors in it,” Girardeau added in his Instagram post. 

Two hikers encounter a mountain lion Friday Nov. 8, 2021 on an Orange County trail. Credit: Mark Girardeau
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